This is going to be a tough message tonight and many of you won’t want to hear it, but it needs to be said. It needs to be said because even though we live in the Bible belt and most of us have at least one Bible at home and even though many of us have grown up in Christian homes or have been exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sadly, many people in Springfield, maybe this includes you, have been exposed to just enough religion to send you straight to Hell.
Ouch. I know these are harsh words, but Hell is a harsh place and many of you are headed straight for there. Sadly, many, I dare say the majority of people are on the broad road to Hell. Jesus said this is true and I believe Him (Matthew 7:13-14). Oh, you may have had some sort of religious experience in the past. Maybe you had a real emotional moment, but you have never come in contact with the living Son of God. You’ve been told about Him and you may even believe several facts about the Messiah, but you have never personally had a real encounter with the risen Savior. You merely have had enough religion to send you straight to Hell.
When you read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke and John, you see that Jesus was very tough on religious people, especially religious leaders. Many times Jesus said Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Jesus told the crowds that they shouldn’t follow the example of the religious leaders because they didn’t practice what they taught. They crushed people with unbearable religious demands and never lifted a finger to ease the burden (Matthew 23:3-4). Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Matthew 23:15).
Are you a twofold child of Hell tonight? You may think that it isn’t very nice of me to ask you this question, but actually it may be the nicest and kindest thing that I could ever do for you. Are you a child of Hell or a child of God’s tonight? How can you tell? One way is your prayer life? How is your prayer life?
Please listen to the following parable found in Luke 18:9-14 and see which one more accurately describes your prayers. And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Do you pray like the Pharisee? Do you remind God about all the wonderful things that you have done for Him? God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Do you pray at all? In this wicked and adulterous generation that we live in, more people than ever in America claim to be non-religious. If this describes you tonight, then you too are lost and on the broad road to destruction.
Or do you pray like the publican – the tax collector? He was ashamed to look up to heaven. He hung his head in shame and beat upon his breast and said “God be merciful to me a sinner.” This is a humble person’s prayer. This is a person that recognizes that that he is a sinner and that God is Holy. This is a person that sees that he is spiritually in terrible shape and he is crying out to and turning to the only Savior – Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
But the problem nowadays is that most people don’t see themselves as sinners. We soften everything up. We don’t outright call sin, sin anymore. We soften the blow so we don’t make people mad. This soft, man-made, self serving religion is just enough religion to send you straight to Hell. Too many people are rushing down the broad road to Hell, but they don’t know it. They have enough religion to ease their conscience, but they don’t personally know the Lord Jesus – they have never had a life altering encounter with the risen Savior, so they think that they’re alright, but they are really headed straight for Hell.
The tax collector recognized and admitted that he was as sinner. You can know that you are a sinner when you compare yourself to God’s Holy Law – the 10 Commandments. How do you stack up tonight?
- You shall have no other gods before me. God says this. The one true God – the Creator God – the Alpha and Omega. Have you ever put any false gods above the Almighty God? No you say? Are you sure? Are you sure that you aren’t doing it right now? Have you always loved God with all of your heart, soul and mind? None of us have done that. We are all guilty of breaking the first commandment.
- You shall not make for yourself any graven image. Most of us don’t physically make a false god with our hands, but have you created false god in your mind? No you say? Well, does your god overlook your sin? Is your god ok with you committing fornication? Is he alright with you getting drunk? Is your god ok with your cussing? With the filthy jokes that you tell and laugh at? Is your god ok with the raunchy TV shows and movies that you watch? If so, then you most definitely have created a false god in your mind. The One True God – the God of the Bible says be holy because I am Holy.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word? Have you dishonored God with your words? Have you denied God by denying His existence? Have you blasphemed God? If so, He will not hold you guiltless.
- Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. People barely attend church in America now, let alone keep the Sabbath Day holy.
- Honor your Father and your Mother. Have you always honored your Father and Mother? Yes you say? Well, every time that you’ve broken one of the 10 Commandments, you have dishonored your parents.
- You shall not kill. Maybe you have never physically killed anyone. But have you ever murdered someone in your mind? The Bible says that hatred is the same thing as murder and being angry at someone without cause (without righteous indignation – not where someone has done you wrong, but where they have wronged Almighty God), then you have committed murder in your heart and God is so Holy that He sees anger and hatred as murder. He holds us to a higher standard.
- You shall not commit adultery. Maybe you have never committed adultery, but please keep in mind that Jesus said that if you lust after someone, then you have committed adultery with that person in your heart. Again, God sees your heart motive. We have all lusted after someone at one time or another. You may have even lusted out here tonight.
- You shall not steal. Have you ever stolen anything? We’ve all stolen something at one time or another. Even if you won’t admit to breaking this one, then you have to admit that you have at least taken a paperclip or a pen or pencil that didn’t belong to you or maybe you looked at someone’s answer on a test. If so, then you are a thief. We’ve all broken this one too.
- You shall not lie. Yes, we’ve all broken this one. The question isn’t have you ever told a lie; the question is how many lies have you told in your life? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We’ve all lied and Jesus said that all liars will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (Revelation 21:8).
- You shall not covet. Have you ever wanted something that belonged to someone else? A house, car, girlfriend, job, promotion or any number of other material things. We are all guilty of breaking this commandment too.
We have all broken the 10 Commandments. None of us are righteous. In fact, we’ve broken them many times over. I am guilty of breaking them. You are guilty of breaking them. I have admitted and confessed my sins to God. Have you done so? Have you admitted that you are a guilty sinner to Almighty God? Have you confessed your sins and have you had godly sorrow over your sins? Have you repented and put your trust in Jesus? If not, then your guilt is still upon you. You are guilty before our Holy and righteous God. The problem nowadays is that many people have had a religious moment at one time or another, but they have never had a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Many people have had enough religion to be like the Pharisee, where you justify your actions. You think you are a good person and that God is alright with you – just like you are. Sure you have made mistakes, but that just makes you human, right? Maybe you haven’t lived your life as good as you should have, but you’re not as bad as the neighbor down the street. Too many people make excuses for their words and their actions. Too many people believe that God will judge them to be ok, that He will overlook their shortcomings. Too many people have enough religion to send them straight to Hell.
If you think I’m joking, read the Bible! In Genesis, God sent a flood and killed every single human being except for the eight souls in the ark. If you read the New Testament you’ll see that God allowed His only begotten Son to be nailed to a tree because people are sinful. He poured out His anger over the sins of the world upon Jesus Christ because God hates sin! God in all of His glory; cannot tolerate sin. We are all sinners. We all deserve God’s wrath. But in His great love, He sent His own precious Son to be an atonement, to be a substitute for guilty sinners who confess and forsake their sins. He offers eternal salvation to those who (unlike the Pharisee) admit their sins and who cry out for God to have mercy upon them.
When you recognize your sinfulness and His Holiness, you can’t do anything else except cry out for mercy. If God doesn’t open your spiritually blind eyes, then none of this will make any sense to you. But oh, again in His great mercy, if He is revealing to you tonight that you are a sinner and you understand that you will stand before our Holy, Righteous and Just Judge on Judgment Day, then you must cry out for mercy or you will keep your sins to yourself. If you foolishly keep your sins to yourself and you die in your sins, you will suffer God’s anger over your sins forever.
Behold, now is the accepted time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. …The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Don’t be like the Pharisee and foolishly count on your own goodness to save you. None of us are good. Only God is good. Don’t believe the lie that you have done more good in your life than bad so therefore God has to accept you. That’s not how you are saved. Don’t be like the Pharisee who had enough religion to send him straight to Hell. Don’t join the millions of other religious people who are burning in Hell right now, because you have enough religion to send you there. No, be like the tax collector. Admit your guilt to our Holy God. Confess your sins to Him and have godly sorrow over your sins. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Don’t die in your sins and go to Hell. Come to Jesus. Do this tonight and be saved.
(This message was proclaimed in downtown Springfield, MO on June 5, 2015).